People confuse blame and responsibility all the time.  Blame is what we use when we are emotionally charged about something.  It’s the word that comes to mind when we are angry or hurt or aggrieved over something.  We want something done about the situation. We want our feelings to change.  We want things to move on and become right again and to do that we feel that we need to find the source of the issue.  We want to blame someone.  Blame is a negative word.  We think of it as associated with justice, with responsibility, with judgement. We think of it as setting things right.

The problem is that blame is negative because it isn’t closely tied with the facts.  It’s associated with responsibility but not in a discovering the truth of things so that responsibility can be taken and things can be made right, but more of a pin the tail on the donkey kinda way.  We feel bad, we hurt, we’re scared, we need to make those feelings move and blaming something, someone, some situation seems to be the way to do so.

Responsibility isn’t the perfect answer either.  People are made responsible for things that they didn’t do, aren’t associated with, or are associated with tangentially.  People are made responsible because no one else will be or because of an assumption, a cultural norm, or even passivity.  However, responsibility is actually the opposite of blame.  Blame is the statement of “you did this, caused this, allowed this to happen.”  Responsibility is the action that runs through something.   We all know that the statement “I’m responsible.” includes this “and….”  Being responsible means that the event or situation isn’t over.  It means that there is more to be done, that the pendulum has swung one way and needs to swing the other.  Hence so many people, corporations, organizations work tirelessly to avoid being responsible.  Being to blame can actually work in a person’s favor because it’s not an action, it’s a label.  It’s like PR.  “Any PR is good PR” goes the adage.

In my work clients come looking either for blame or responsibility in a given situation.  They want to know the source of the issue whether it be karma, a past life issue resurfacing, some lesson to be learned in this lifetime, or just to know whether it’s theirs or someone else’s.  What they get from the information is dependent on whether they are looking for someone/something to blame or whether they are looking for responsibility.  If it’s blame, they don’t get much from the information because it changes nothing.  Blame is a label and all information is worth having, but it doesn’t help them resolve the situation because it doesn’t drive an action.  It just sticks a label on things and leaves the question “Now what?”  Responsibility has action built in.  Knowing that it’s their issue, it’s not their issue, where the issue originated from and why, gives them the information to be responsible for their response, for their resolution, for their becoming.

It’s hard to make that kind of distinction in the heat of the moment.  When we hurt we lash out.  But when the moment passes, stop and consider which it is that you are looking for.